Group plans to put Philadelphia’s other uncracked bell back on display
By KRISTEN DE GROOT
It’s Philadelphia’s other bell, the bigger, uncracked twin of the Liberty Bell. Britain bestowed the Bicentennial Bell to the city as a gift for America’s 200th birthday, but it’s been out of sight and out of mind since 2013. Now, a nonprofit group is hoping to bust the bell out of storage and put it on proper display, just a few blocks away from its better-known relative.
Here are some details:
WHAT IS THE BICENTENNIAL BELL?
The 6-ton bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, the same 16th century foundry that cast the Liberty Bell.
It was presented to Philadelphia in 1976 by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who disembarked from the royal yacht Britannia (fans of the Netflix royal drama “The Crown” might remember the ship from Philip’s four-month tour around the Pacific in 1956) on July 6 at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. Their arrival marked the first time a British monarch had visited Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence that severed the Colonies’ ties from the crown.
The queen, a direct descendant of the patriots’ nemesis King George III, indicated there were no hard feelings. She told a crowd of 20,000 that the founding fathers taught her country “to respect the right of others to govern themselves in their own way.”
On the bell is an inscription reading:
“For The People of The United States of America
From the People of Britain
4 July 1976
Let Freedom Ring”
WHY WAS IT REMOVED?
The bell was hung in a red brick tower at what was then the visitors’ center of Independence National Park, built expressly for the bicentennial. The National Park Service removed it in 2013 because the building and tower were being demolished to make way for the Museum of the American Revolution, which celebrated its first anniversary April 19. The bell was crated up and stored in an undisclosed location, waiting for a new home.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS?
A nonprofit group that supports projects around Independence Park has a new campaign to relocate the Bicentennial Bell to a garden at the corner of Third and Walnut streets, in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. It’s currently called the Benjamin Rush Garden, on the site of what once was the founding father’s home. So far, they have a conceptual design and are in the midst of raising funds, said Tom Caramanico, the executive director of the Friends of Independence National Historical Park.
Caramanico said he hopes interest in the group’s other project, restoring the First Bank of the United States, will help bolster interest in the bell project, since they are nearby.
It would be called the Bicentennial Bell Garden and feature the bell in the center, a small plaque featuring Queen Elizabeth’s speech and benches and other plantings.
“This project will achieve the goal that was set when the Bicentennial Bell was cast in 1976: to show the world that two great nations that started in strife and war can become great partners and allies,” the group said in a statement.